"Stuff I Miss, Part One"

At the risk of sounding more old and crotchety than I already am, here are the first entries for a list I may or may not choose to add to later, of “Stuff I Miss”.

Being able to use the word “retard” with out feeling bad about it. I’m never making fun of a retarded person when I use the word, just comparing them to someone.  And would they even know it if I was?  Side note:  why do the care-givers for the “disabled” always dress them in bad clothes and give them a really bad bowl-cut hairdo?  Don’t they stand out enough already?  How many “normal” people do you see wearing green pants, an orange sweater, and red shoes?  Besides on a golf course, that is.

Food cooked “en croûte”. I love me some Feuilletage.  We used to make Carré D’Agneau En Croûte when I worked for Chef Masa at Auberge du Soleil back in the 80’s, and it killed!  We seared the rack, topped it with a Persillade that had fresh mint, brunoise carrot, shiitakes and shallots, and a little whole grain mustard; then we applied the pastry-wrap.  It would get an egg-wash, then into the oven for about 15 minutes for a gorgeous med-rare.  You had rings of brown, flaky pastry, the bright green of the vegetables, the seared brown crust of the meat, and a beautiful pink/red center.

Wrapping stuff in Puff Pastry has gone the way of the DoDo, as has making the Feuillete from scratch, like we used to at Auberge.  It is one of those Old School processes that has about 200 steps and needs everything to be at the perfect temperature, and added at just the right time, then rolled and folded over and over, just so.  Get the butter too warm or too cold, roll it into the dough wrong, or work it too much, and it all goes to shit and you end up with dough that’s flat as a pizza crust.  Making puff dough is one of those things that people once did for themselves many eons ago, like making rope.  Stuff that maybe your Grandpa knew how to do, but now it’s so much easier to just buy it.  But, seriously.  Beef Wellington, anyone?

Guys that follow their shot in a basketball game. You see it a lot in the NCAA’s during March Madness, but as soon as these guys sign to play in the Pro’s, it’s “let it fly and say goodbye.”

Use of Punctuation. And, while we’re at it: that key that says “Shift” on your keyboard?  It can be used to put a capital at the beginning of a sentence or a proper noun, if you would just press it every once in a while.  I am a purist in this sense, and I even know where the semi-colon is on my phone. I actually use it in text messages.

The White Courtesy Phone. Remember those?  Running through the airport to get to your gate, and hearing yourself being paged to the White Courtesy Phone was always a quandary.  Do you stop and make a grab at your chance at temporary celebrity? (“He must be important, he’s on the White Courtesy Phone!”)  Or do you just keep going, knowing they are just trying to find you to tell you what you already know, that you are late and everyone is on the plane is pissed.  Some airports had more than one color and  I always wondered what the difference was.  Most people got the page to the White Phone, but sometimes there was a Green One next to it.  Was that like the Superhero phone? Only the Uber-Important got to use the Green Courtesy Phone.

The Personnel Department: Gone are the days where you got to do your own hiring and the Personnel Office just kept the records and let you live or die with your choices.

Now everyone has to go through “Human Resources”.  Call your Director of Human Resources “Personnel Manager” and watch them bristle.  Human Resources people use the combined psychology of Mister Rogers and Hannibal Lechter to come up with interview questions like “If you were a tree, what kind would you be and why?”  Back when I was a line cook/sous-chef, most of my job interviews usually consisted of a brief once-over of the resume and “When can you start?”   Got my knives in the car, where’s an apron?

"So, where do you see yourself five years from now?"

At one corporate-owned and operated restaurant I managed, they interviewed a guy for a dishwasher job FOUR TIMES, and they still didn’t hire him.  By the time they finish the process, it’s taken so long that you’ve learned to get by without whomever it was you were trying to replace. When you see the smoke coming out of the chimney on the Admin Building change colors, you’ll know they’ve finally made a decision and hired someone.  I mean, we’re just looking for a part-time hostess for the season, not a new CEO.  Check their references, let me know if you find any violent felonies on their record, and shut the fuck up.  And people wonder about the spike in workplace violence…

Burning stuff in the incinerator. Every school and apartment building used to have one, and most families had an old 50-gallon oil drum in their backyard for burning stuff like newspapers, garbage, your sister’s Barbie.  I know that they are gone because of environmental impacts, air pollution, fire safety, respiratory health and insurance concerns, amongst dozens of other completely sensible and valid reasons.   But there was nothing like channeling your inner-Pyro as a kid, and seeing which stuff melted the fastest and looked the coolest as it shriveled in the flames before literally going up in smoke.  Next!

The Cranky Old Man Next Door: You know the one.  The bitter, old guy that used to swat at you with his broom if you climbed on his fence; or laid out his iron garden rake, with the points sticking up, just waiting for you to ride your bike across his lawn.  He was fond of yelling shit like “Hey!  You kids get out of there!”  He was always complaining that young people had no manners any more, and when I was a kid blah de blah, blah, blah… Oh, wait.  That’s me.

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6 Responses to "Stuff I Miss, Part One"

  1. wyngrrrl says:

    I miss Beef Wellington. When I was 7 we spent an entire summer on “Restaurant Manners”. At the end My parents rewarded us with dinner at (Can’t remember the name, is now Bayleaf, but before it was Atlas Peak Grill) and that is what I had. I thought I was the Little Princess. My brother had a rack of lamb~ we thought it was amazing that it came out with pom poms on it1 The glamour days of the early 80’s in Napa for a country girl…

    • nativenapkin says:

      That was Petri’s, run by the San Francisco family that still owns Albert’s Restaurant in North Beach.

      And guess who worked there for a year-plus when they first opened and just might have cooked that Wellie for you?

  2. Carole Loomis says:

    My dad would take me out for my birthday; just the two of us. Those were the occasions when we had things like my first escargot, lamb chops, and cherries jubilee prepared tableside on a gueridon. Now, the only places that do that type of service are considered old school and dated.

  3. El Jefe says:

    My favorite restaurant in the world, The Hobbit down in Orange, CA, still does en Croute. It’s a prix fixe place, and they do it every few weeks. Here are the upcoming menus:

    http://www.hobbitrestaurant.com/page.aspx?pgid=3

    If you ever get down that way I highly recommend it the Wellington 😉 <– use of semicolon!

  4. El Jefe says:

    Dammit! ;) <– second attempt at use of semicolon!

  5. waiternotes says:

    What a great post! Funny and clever as usual.

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